Lake Matano, Indonesia

Lake Locations:

Indonesia -

Also known as:  Lake Matana, Danan Matano

One of the world’s ten deepest lakes,* Lake Matano on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia is also one of the most unique. The picturesque, spring-fed lake covers 44,500 acres with some of the clearest water ever experienced. Headwaters of the Malili Lakes system, Lake Matano is fed by the Penten River and lies in a tectonic fault. The lake is estimated to be between one and four million years old and has been virtually isolated from other lakes as it lies a full 236 feet above water bodies lower in the chain. This long period of separation has created endemic fish and plants that have taken evolutionary forms seen nowhere else. Of the 30 types of fish in the lake, it is believed all evolved from one type of fish. The only imported species is an eel. The fish have evolved to be highly dependent on sight for feeding and breeding purposes in the pristine waters. Their unusual development, and the unusual high-iron content of the lower non-oxygenated layer of the lake, make Lake Matano a regular subject of scientific study. Although nestled between towering, green hills at 1257 feet above sea level, the bottom of the lake actually reaches down to 1937 feet- 700 feet below sea level.

Lake Matano is a major highway for local villagers who row from village to village across the pristine waters. A commercial cruise boat travels regularly between Sorowako and Nuhu. Ever enterprising, locals rent home-produced rafts to visitors with which they can tour the lake and enjoy the lush scenery of the surrounding hills. A yacht club exists but is membership only and reserved to the employees of the local businesses such as the nickel mines. Those lucky enough to wangle an invitation can enjoy water skiing, jet skiing, sail-boarding and sailing. There are public swimming beaches, often with generous over-water decks, and swimming and scuba diving in the shallow waters around the perimeter of the lake. Several underwater caves invite divers to explore. Less than an hour away by car, a spectacular waterfall tumbles down the rocks between Lake Matano and Lake Mahalona. Scenery in the area is a lush, green rainforest with plentiful wildlife and birds, but it is unknown if there are publicly-available hiking trails.

One detail prevents Lake Matano from becoming a regular tourist destination: it is a twelve-hour car or bus ride or a very expensive flight from the nearest larger city. Renting a car to get there is likely the best option as there is no form of public transportation in the area. The lone internationally-advertised hotel in Sorowako is often filled with business travelers who are making business calls on the local mining industry. There may be other lodgings but only an experienced tour operator or local resident could arrange a stay. The local government has not yet tried to facilitate tourism. Until there is investment in the tourist infrastructure, Lake Matano is likely to stay an isolated, pristine and little-known tropical paradise.

Lake Matano is named for Matano Village along the shore. Matano means ‘wellspring’ in the native tongue. A well or fountain in the village flows continually into the lake, giving rise to local lore that the fountain is the source of the lake’s water. Fish from the lake comprise a large part of local diets, as it has for hundreds of years. Recently, life has changed for many in the local villages as the PT Inco Corporation operates one of the world’s leading nickel mines near Sorowako. The mining company operates a large strip mine in the rainforest near the lake and has built several smelters. The mine has been both a blessing and a curse as the company has attracted laborers from far-distant villages and built a dam and hydro-electric generating plant downstream between Lake Mahalona and Lake Towuti which provides some electricity to local villages.

Villagers have benefited from the electricity, jobs, and the infusion of cash from mine employees. Although the mining company is considered a responsible user of the land and replants the lands stripped for mining, knowledgeable ecologists worry that the replanting monoculture destroys the balance of native trees in the area. And, although the company has been very responsible with the waste water used in mining, scientists are concerned it or sediments carried by it may someday make its way into Lake Matano, clouding the clear waters and upsetting the delicate natural balance. The Indonesian government is also encouraging people to move from the overcrowded northern parts of the island to the less populous southern portion. An influx of new inhabitants will further disrupt what is already an uncertain situation.

If you’re ever in the market for the ultimate adventure destination, Lake Matano should hold a prominent spot in the itinerary.

* Although some lists show Lake Matano as the tenth deepest lake in the world, other lists give it a higher ranking for depth. Because several of these lakes are in undeveloped countries where little study has been completed, exact rankings are probably impossible.

Things to do at Lake Matano

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Scuba Diving
  • Hiking
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Lake Matano

  • Eel

Lake Matano Photo Gallery

Lake Matano Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 44,550 acres

Shoreline Length: 50 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,257 feet

Average Depth: 121 feet

Maximum Depth: 1,936 feet

Water Volume: 79,449,893 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 168 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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